Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Joe Romm knocks over a straw man

Below is the opening of a Joe Romm rant. Most of the rest is just ad hominem abuse. Straw man arguments occur as an act of desperation. When you cannot answer your opponent's argument, you make up some other argument and answer that. The straw man argument that Romm invents below is that there has been NO global warming. But nobody argues that.

Skeptics argue 1). That the warming is trivial in relation to normal climate variations and in relation to its possible effects; 2). That it is natural rather than anthropogenic.

"Trivial" or "substantial" have to be defined in relation to something. An effect that might seem substantial to a scientist eagerly scaning his data may be quite trivial in its real-world effects.

Skeptics are also dubious about whether recent rises in CO2 levels are substantially human-caused. How do we know? Molecules don't have fingerprints on them!

In his piece below Romm is referring to an attempt to clean up the terrestrial temperature record after all the dubious treatment of it by Hansen at NASA/GISS, Jones at CRU/UEA, and others. It is a worthy project but marginal to the climate debate. Satellite data are available that render the likes of Hansen and Jones largely irrelevant. They too show trivial warming.

Another amusing aspect of the Romm piece is his hysteria in finding that the openness promised by the new project really is happening -- and that SKEPTICS (gasp!) have been given access to the data concerned.

Bombshell 1: Climate science deniers claim to have full access to Berkeley temperature study work-product

Bombshell 2: BEST's Project Chair Richard Muller confirms ClimateProgress reporting, contradicts WattsUpWithThat

The key conclusions from Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project have been made public by its project chair, Richard Muller. In a talk Saturday (near the end), Muller explained that BEST has been analyzing large quantities of data, they have started writing a draft report, and what he can say now is:

“We are seeing substantial global warming”

“None of the effects raised by the [skeptics] is going to have anything more than a marginal effect on the amount of global warming.”

None of that should be a surprise (except to a few deniers). If you listen to the entire video (which I don’t recommend without multiple head vises), it’s clear the Muller himself is a volcano of long-debunked denier talking points and misinformation (which I’ll re-debunk later). So when Muller says the data show “substantial global warming” and the effects raised by the skeptics are “marginal,” you know he’s not overstating things.


On the gargantuan lie of climate change science

An excerpt below from Denis G. Rancourt, a Left-leaning academic. The headline above is his. This excerpt points out that assessing global temperature has huge statistical difficulties that Warmists ignore. In the introductory paragraph below he mentions other difficulties -- difficulties which he explores more fully in his original article

So, if despite all the carbon pools and inter-pool fluxes on the planet we (a) accept that the increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration is due to fossil fuel burning, (b) believe that the concept of a planetary greenhouse effect is physically justified, and (c) believe that CO2 as a trace gas in the atmosphere can impact climate via the invented but-some-believe-justified amplification hypothesis, then we must next look for planetary warming (or some other global climate effect?) that can be attributed to increasing CO2.

Note that, given the above discussion, a plausible alternative to even point-a is that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is a response to some global or solar-system change(s) that affect carbon fluxes – rather than arising from a simplistic addition from fossil fuel burning. That is, that trace atmospheric CO2 “follows” rather than “drives” (e.g., [2][15][16]).

Never mind! Let’s just look for warming.

Now at this stage it gets really difficult for the believer scientists. They must contend both with the largest scientific data hoarding and data manipulating scandal since Newton (Climategate, [17]) and the fact that the mathematical statisticians have shown that a global (space-and-time-) average temperature from (space-and-time-) discrete measurements of temperature is “ill-posed” (i.e., cannot be reliably evaluated) [2][18].

Mathematical statistics experts Essex et al. put it this way in their 2007 abstract [18]:

“Physical, mathematical, and observational grounds are employed to show that there is no physically meaningful global temperature for the Earth in the context of the issue of global warming. While it is always possible to construct statistics for any given set of local temperature data, an infinite range of such statistics is mathematically permissible if physical principles provide no explicit basis for choosing among them. Distinct and equally valid statistical rules can and do show opposite trends when applied to the results of computations from physical models and real data in the atmosphere. A given temperature field can be interpreted as both “warming” and “cooling” simultaneously, making the concept of warming in the context of the issue of global warming physically ill-posed.”

In addition, analytic forecasting experts assessed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Working Group One (WG1) 2007 Report and found that [19]:

“The forecasting procedures that were described violated 72 [established forecasting] principles. Many of the violations were, by themselves, critical. The forecasts in the Report were not the outcome of scientific procedures. In effect, they were the opinions of scientists transformed by mathematics and obscured by complex writing. Research on forecasting has shown that experts' predictions are not useful in situations involving uncertainly and complexity. We have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts of global warming. Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get colder.”

This all occurred after the ludicrous “hottest year in the hottest decade of the last thousand years” madness of the 1990s, now politely referred to as the “hockey stick controversy” [20]. And recently Climategate has conclusively settled the latter controversy [17]: The hockey stick was a sham even allowing for statistical ignorance regarding the instrumental temperature record.

In addition, it is stunning to note the almost total disregard for proper error propagation and sensitivity analysis that was the norm in climate science (both with the modellers and those reporting proxy and instrumental data) into the beginnings of the 2000s. This is true to the point that the first tentative reports of error and sensitivity analysis on the models were considered top-rate scientific news for the elite journals Science and Nature (e.g., [21][22][23][24]) – as though scientists had just discovered reliability evaluation!

Several papers then questioned the further practical difficulty of correctly quantifying true prediction uncertainties given that all the contending climate models make virtually the same model assumptions (e.g., [25]) – as though that were a surprise.

These were fatal blows (mean global temperature not defined and cannot be measured or predicted) that did not even require that the previously debated and arguably insurmountable difficulties of measuring a given temperature (instrumentally or by proxy) be addressed (see [2] for discussion).

These are the reasons that “global warming” became “climate change”. Model extractions and empirical evaluations of a mean global temperature were shown to be hog wash.


Japan: whatever happened to the nuclear meltdown?

Amazing, isn’t it, what a little light military intervention can do to a nuclear crisis? One minute, the world is facing nuclear meltdown Armageddon to rank with – ooh, Three Mile Island at the very least, and quite possibly Chernobyl. A few (shockingly expensive) missile strikes over Benghazi and Tripoli later, though, and the Japanese nuclear crisis has all but vanished from the face of the earth.

Maybe we should start small wars more often. Or maybe – even better – the MSM could learn to start reporting on nuclear incidents like journalists instead of activists from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. I’m with Lewis Page on this one. In the Register, he writes:
As one who earns his living in the media these days, I can only apologise on behalf of my profession for the unbelievable levels of fear and misinformation purveyed this week. I have never been so ashamed to call myself a journalist.

Page puts the Fukushima incident in its proper perspective:
The Fukushima reactors actually came through the quake with flying colours despite the fact that it was five times stronger than they had been built to withstand. Only with the following tsunami – again, bigger than the design allowed for – did problems develop, and these problems seem likely to end in insignificant consequences. The Nos 1, 2 and 3 reactors at Daiichi may never produce power again – though this is not certain – but the likelihood is that Nos 4, 5 and 6 will return to service behind a bigger tsunami barrier.

The lesson to learn here is that if your country is hit by a monster earthquake and tsunami, one of the safest places to be is at the local nuclear powerplant. Other Japanese nuclear powerplants in the quake-stricken area, in fact, are sheltering homeless refugees in their buildings – which are some of the few in the region left standing at all, let alone with heating, water and other amenities.

Nothing else in the quake-stricken area has come through anything like as well as the nuclear power stations, or with so little harm to the population. All other forms of infrastructure – transport, housing, industries – have failed the people in and around them comprehensively, leading to deaths most probably in the tens of thousands. Fires, explosions and tank/pipeline ruptures all across the region will have done incalculably more environmental damage, distributed hugely greater amounts of carcinogens than Fukushima Daiichi – which has so far emitted almost nothing but radioactive steam (which becomes non-radioactive within minutes of being generated).

And yet nobody will say after this: “don’t build roads; don’t build towns; don’t build ships or chemical plants or oil refineries or railways”. That would be ridiculous, of course, even though having all those things has actually led to terrible loss of life, destruction and pollution in the quake’s wake.

But far and away more ridiculously, a lot of people are already saying that Fukushima with its probable zero consequences means that no new nuclear powerplants should ever be built again.

One of those ridiculous people is – inevitably – the noisome Energy Secretary Chris Huhne. In true Rahm Emanuel style he is using the perceived crisis as an excuse to push forward his anti-nuclear, eco-loon agenda. He claims:
“We can do the 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 without new nuclear, but it will require a big effort on carbon capture and storage and renewables.”

If implemented this will most assuredly cause brown-outs and tremendous economic damage by the time the energy gap begins to widen in 2020. But since Huhne will no longer be in office then and since he is wealthy enough not to have to face the consequences of his political stupidity this is unlikely to bother him.

Another of those people is the Hon Sir Jonathon Porritt, who could be heard on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions grandstanding about his opposition to nuclear and being given a free pass by Jonathan Dimbleby to spout his spurious eco-propaganda as if it were actually true. At one point, he actually claimed that wind farms did not cause noise disturbance. (Maybe, Sir Jonathan, I should give you the phone number of the poor Welsh chap who has been advised that he should now sleep with his windows shut at night to cut out the noise of the wind farm which has destroyed the value of his property and ruined his retirement).

One of the main objections raised about nuclear power is how incredibly expensive it is. There’s a reason for this: thanks to forty years of hysterical, dishonest propaganda from “Atomkraft Nein Danke” eco-activists like Porritt and Huhne, the bar for safety has been set to such impossibly high standards that it cannot compete economically with less heavily regulated industries such as oil, coal, gas – or indeed wind. I was pleased to hear Toby Young on Any Questions reiterating my point about the safety records of the nuclear and wind industries:
Nuclear fatalities in the last ten years: 7

Wind farm fatalities in the last ten years: 44.

In those ten years nuclear provided thirty times the energy of wind. This means in the last decade, nuclear has been around 200 times safer than wind on an energy produced/accidents basis.

And entirely unsurprised when the Hon Sir Jonathan Porritt, having pompously thanked Toby for raising the safety issue, chose to ignore the inconvenient truth of these statistics.

Let’s leave last word to this German astronomer and physicist, Dr Peter Heller, who has written a moving essay on how the scientific truth on nuclear power has been warped by political activism. (Hmm. Reminds me of another area of “science” which has been similarly distorted by scientists, politicians and activists with an agenda. Can anyone jog my memory?) (H/T Roddy Campbell)
So it fills me with sadness and anger on how the work of the above mentioned giants of physics is now being dragged through the mud, how the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century are being redefined and criminalized. The current debate in Germany is also a debate on freedom of research.

The stigmatization and ostracism of nuclear energy, the demand for an immediate stop of its use, is also the demand for the end of its research and development. No job possibilities also means no students, which means no faculty, which then means the end of the growth of our knowledge.

Stopping nuclear energy is nothing less than rejecting the legacy of Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr and all others. It is tantamount to scrapping it, labelling it as dangerous – all in a fit of ignorance. And just as creationists attempt to ban the theory of evolution from the school books, it almost seems as if every factual and neutral explanation in Germany is now in the process of being deleted.

The media suggests a nuclear catastrophe, a mega-meltdown, and that the apocalypse has already begun. It is almost as if the 10,000 deaths in Japan were actually victims of nuclear energy, and not the earthquake or the tsunami. Here again one has to remind us that Fukushima was first hit by an unimaginable 9.0 earthquake and then by a massive 10-meter wave of water just an hour later. As a result, the facility no longer found itself in a highly technological area, but surrounded by a desert of rubble. All around the power plant the infrastructure, residential areas, traffic routes, energy and communication networks are simply no longer there. They were wiped out.

Yet, after an entire week, the apocalypse still has not come to pass. Only relatively small amounts of radioactive materials have leaked out and have had only a local impact. If one considers the pure facts exclusively, i.e. only the things we really know, then it exposes the unfounded interpretations of scientific illiterates in the media. One can only arrive to one conclusion: This sorrowful state will remain so.


Safe nuclear does exist, and China is leading the way with thorium

A few weeks before the tsunami struck Fukushima’s uranium reactors and shattered public faith in nuclear power, China revealed that it was launching a rival technology to build a safer, cleaner, and ultimately cheaper network of reactors based on thorium.

This passed unnoticed –except by a small of band of thorium enthusiasts – but it may mark the passage of strategic leadership in energy policy from an inert and status-quo West to a rising technological power willing to break the mould.

If China’s dash for thorium power succeeds, it will vastly alter the global energy landscape and may avert a calamitous conflict over resources as Asia’s industrial revolutions clash head-on with the West’s entrenched consumption.

China’s Academy of Sciences said it had chosen a “thorium-based molten salt reactor system”. The liquid fuel idea was pioneered by US physicists at Oak Ridge National Lab in the 1960s, but the US has long since dropped the ball. Further evidence of Barack `Obama’s “Sputnik moment”, you could say.

Chinese scientists claim that hazardous waste will be a thousand times less than with uranium. The system is inherently less prone to disaster. “The reactor has an amazing safety feature,” said Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA engineer at Teledyne Brown and a thorium expert. “If it begins to overheat, a little plug melts and the salts drain into a pan. There is no need for computers, or the sort of electrical pumps that were crippled by the tsunami. The reactor saves itself,” he said.

“They operate at atmospheric pressure so you don’t have the sort of hydrogen explosions we’ve seen in Japan. One of these reactors would have come through the tsunami just fine. There would have been no radiation release.”

Thorium is a silvery metal named after the Norse god of thunder. The metal has its own “issues” but no thorium reactor could easily spin out of control in the manner of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or now Fukushima.

Professor Robert Cywinksi from Huddersfield University said thorium must be bombarded with neutrons to drive the fission process. “There is no chain reaction. Fission dies the moment you switch off the photon beam. There are not enough neutrons for it continue of its own accord,” he said.

Dr Cywinski, who anchors a UK-wide thorium team, said the residual heat left behind in a crisis would be “orders of magnitude less” than in a uranium reactor.

The earth’s crust holds 80 years of uranium at expected usage rates, he said. Thorium is as common as lead. America has buried tons as a by-product of rare earth metals mining. Norway has so much that Oslo is planning a post-oil era where thorium might drive the country’s next great phase of wealth. Even Britain has seams in Wales and in the granite cliffs of Cornwall. Almost all the mineral is usable as fuel, compared to 0.7pc of uranium. There is enough to power civilization for thousands of years.

I write before knowing the outcome of the Fukushima drama, but as yet none of 15,000 deaths are linked to nuclear failure. Indeed, there has never been a verified death from nuclear power in the West in half a century. Perspective is in order.

We cannot avoid the fact that two to three billion extra people now expect – and will obtain – a western lifestyle. China alone plans to produce 100m cars and buses every year by 2020.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the world currently has 442 nuclear reactors. They generate 372 gigawatts of power, providing 14pc of global electricity. Nuclear output must double over twenty years just to keep pace with the rise of the China and India.

If a string of countries cancel or cut back future reactors, let alone follow Germany’s Angela Merkel in shutting some down, they shift the strain onto gas, oil, and coal. Since the West is also cutting solar subsidies, they can hardly expect the solar industry to plug the gap.

BP’s disaster at Macondo should teach us not to expect too much from oil reserves deep below the oceans, beneath layers of blinding salt. Meanwhile, we rely uneasily on Wahabi repression to crush dissent in the Gulf and keep Arabian crude flowing our way. So where can we turn, unless we revert to coal and give up on the ice caps altogether? That would be courting fate.

US physicists in the late 1940s explored thorium fuel for power. It has a higher neutron yield than uranium, a better fission rating, longer fuel cycles, and does not require the extra cost of isotope separation.

The plans were shelved because thorium does not produce plutonium for bombs. As a happy bonus, it can burn up plutonium and toxic waste from old reactors, reducing radio-toxicity and acting as an eco-cleaner.

Dr Cywinski is developing an accelerator driven sub-critical reactor for thorium, a cutting-edge project worldwide. It needs to £300m of public money for the next phase, and £1.5bn of commercial investment to produce the first working plant. Thereafter, economies of scale kick in fast. The idea is to make pint-size 600MW reactors.

Yet any hope of state support seems to have died with the Coalition budget cuts, and with it hopes that Britain could take a lead in the energy revolution. It is understandable, of course. Funds are scarce. The UK has already put its efforts into the next generation of uranium reactors. Yet critics say vested interests with sunk costs in uranium technology succeeded in chilling enthusiasm.

The same happened a decade ago to a parallel project by Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). France’s nuclear industry killed proposals for funding from Brussels, though a French group is now working on thorium in Grenoble.

Norway’s Aker Solution has bought Professor Rubbia’s patent. It had hoped to build the first sub-critical reactor in the UK, but seems to be giving up on Britain and locking up a deal to build it in China instead, where minds and wallets are more open.

So the Chinese will soon lead on this thorium technology as well as molten-salts. Good luck to them. They are doing Mankind a favour. We may get through the century without tearing each other apart over scarce energy and wrecking the planet.


Low exposure to the Nagasaki atomic blast resulted in longer lifespans

The immense suffering that the Japanese are enduring in the aftermath of their earthquake and tsunami is now compounded by torment over radiation releases from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

While the torment is understandable, based on the reported amounts of radiation released, it is uncalled for. The evidence from Japan’s populace — inadvertent guinea pigs in the largest radiation experiment ever, in the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 — indicates that fears over radiation can be overblown.

Those who survived the immediate atomic blasts but were near Ground Zero died at a high rate from excess exposure to radiation. The tens of thousands more distant from Ground Zero, and who received lower exposures to radiation, did not die in droves. To the contrary, and surprisingly, they outlived their counterparts in the general population who received no exposure to radiation from the blasts.

These findings come from the Atomic Bomb Disease Institute of the Nagasaki University School of Medicine, which has been analyzing the medical records of survivors continuously since 1968. The voluminous records — based in part on the free twice-a-year medical examinations that 83,050 registered Nagasaki survivors received — provided the researchers with a database of 2.5 million examination items to mine. To determine how the survivors fared, the researchers compared the survivors with Japanese men and women of the same age who had not been exposed to radiation.

“Among about 100,000 A-bomb survivors registered at Nagasaki University School of Medicine, male subjects exposed to 31-40 cGy [centigrays] showed significantly lower mortality from non-cancerous diseases than age-matched unexposed males,” the researchers found. “And the death rate for exposed male and female was smaller than that for unexposed.” The 31-40 cGy is a measure of radiation absorption higher than the general population in the vicinity of the plants is likely to have received.

The University of Nagasaki study, whose results were consistent with other studies done of the A-bomb survivors, found that high exposures to radiation kill while moderate exposures provide overall general health benefits. While some levels of low exposure did produce a small number of additional cancer deaths, these cancer deaths were more than offset by lower death rates from other causes, such as heart disease and circulatory ailments. The study’s bottom line: “the low doses of A-bomb radiation increased lifespan of A-bomb survivors.”

Other studies of A-bomb survivors, which sliced the data in different ways, have also found encouraging news. Those exposed to fewer than 20 cGy of radiation experienced fewer cancer deaths than the general population. The unborn — thought to be at especial risk — showed no adverse effects under 10 cGy. And no genetic defects were found among the 90,000 children and grandchildren of survivor parents who were exposed to average doses of 40 cGy to 60 cGy. Based on the information available to date, all these exposures exceed those the general population in the vicinity of the Fukushima plant is likely to have received.

The real-life studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors indicate that radiation affects the human body much as arsenic, sodium and many other substances do — they are beneficial in small doses, but can be harmful in overdoses. Yet the conventional scientific wisdom rejects these studies, and a multitude of other real-life studies, in favour of what is known as the Linear No-Threshold Assumption. Under this assumption, all exposure to radiation, no matter how small, is harmful in direct proportion to the dose. It is called an assumption because there is no proof of its validity. In fact, the scientists who espouse it freely admit that no proof for their assumption can ever be had because the risk is too small to measure statistically. In the absence of proof, they say, the only safe course is to assume danger.

Yet assuming danger where none exists is in itself dangerous, particularly in a country with the culture of Japan. The atomic bomb survivors were known as hibakusha or “explosion-affected people”— a stigma connoting damaged goods that made them less marriageable, less worthy of association, and less worthy even in their own minds. Even if those recently irradiated by Fukushima escape this epithet, the burden of living in fear for their health and that of their offspring could be great.

Damage to the psyche aside, some 200,000 people have been evacuated from 10 towns in the vicinity of the nuclear plant, many of whom now find themselves in poorly heated makeshift shelters where they must make do without adequate food and water, and numerous others have been told to stay indoors. Worse, if the budding panic over radiation spreads, the region around Fukushima — one of Japan’s most productive farming areas — may be tainted or even abandoned for agriculture. The Japanese government has already banned the sale of milk and spinach produced in the plant’s environs, and consumers in other countries, fearing contamination, are shying away from all Japanese produce.

The only evidence that exists as to the health of humans who have been irradiated at low levels points to a benefit, not a harm. Difficult though it may be to overcome the fear of radiation that has been drubbed into us since childhood, there is no scientific proof whatsoever to view the radiation emitted from the Fukushima plant as dangerous to the Japanese population, and certainly no reason for the Japanese to view those living near the plant as damaged goods. In all likelihood, though, many will nevertheless be viewed as such. If so, that will be one more tragedy heaped among the others that the affected Japanese population will need to endure.


Hitler 1934 – Holdren 1969

Obama science czar John Holdren, 1969:
If we may safely rule out circumvention of the Second Law or the divorce of energy requirements from population size, this suggests that, whatever science and technology may accomplish, population growth must be stopped.

But it cannot be emphasized enough that if the population control measures are not initiated immediately and effectively, all the technology man can bring to bear will not fend off the misery to come.’ Therefore, confronted as we are with limited resources of time and money, we must consider carefully what fraction of our effort should be applied to the cure of the disease itself instead of to the temporary relief of the symptoms.

We should ask, for example, how many vasectomies could be performed by a program funded with the 1.8 billion dollars required to build a single nuclear agro-industrial complex, and what the relative impact on the problem would be in both the short and long terms.

The decision for population control will be opposed by growth-minded economists and businessmen, by nationalistic statesmen, by zealous religious leaders, and by the myopic and well-fed of every description. It is therefore incumbent on all who sense the limitations of technology and the fragility of the environmental balance to make themselves heard above the hollow, optimistic chorus-to convince society and its leaders that there is no alternative but the cessation of our irresponsible, all-demanding, and all-consuming population growth.

Holdren is actually even more misanthropic than Hitler. Hitler only wanted to kill the defectives. Holdren doesn't care who it is -- JR



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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